Men: on Pickup and
recently lost her father --
dominated by people who have obvious
psychological problems (as many movements are), the PUA movement was
nonetheless fascinating to
who are interested in biology, sociology, and human sexuality, as I am. When someone makes the
claim “Do XYZ, and you
will become more attractive to the opposite sex,” it’s human nature to
whether the claim is true. But
movement that started off as interesting has become stupid, and this
most of them in the same way: an increasing reliance upon, and
assertions that are unfalsifiable.
Remember that the world's most desirable women
are defined by their fierce opposition to bullshit.
In order for
your beliefs to be worth having,
there need to be circumstances under which you would stop believing
belief that penguins can’t fly would be altered if you saw a penguin
your belief that Mozart is a genius would be altered if it were found
that he plagiarized
his work; your belief that your wife is faithful would be altered if
you saw a
videotape of her fucking the mailman; etc.
in a belief—i.e., the possibility of
the existence of contrary evidence—is called falsifiability. Though it
sounds like a weakness, it is actually a strength.
It means that the belief in question is
rooted in something sound and comprehensible.
Remember, we are not talking about the likelihood that your belief is wrong (I
don’t expect my belief in
gravity to be shaken by a randomly floating object anytime soon), but
about the logical possibility of
imagining circumstances that would contradict it (I can
comprehend how a
randomly floating object would
contradict the theory of gravity, if one were to pass by).
At first, the
pickup movement mainly made claims
that worked this way. Regardless
big a clown you think that Mystery guy is, he at least mostly made
that were falsifiable, in that he would advise you to walk up to a girl
or do a series of fairly specific things: women love talking about
woman will like you if you pretend to be interested in her friend; a
more likely to give you her number if you pretend you have to leave
soon; etc. These
are all falsifiable claims. If
the series of very specific things works,
then Mystery is right, and if not, he is wrong.
Whether it is
ethical to use any particular piece
of advice is another matter, since this essay is primarily concerned
it seems to me that
in principle, there’s nothing altogether terrible about this. Most guys are nervous
walking up and talking
to a woman, so if you can tell guys two or three things that will make
less nervous about doing that, fine.
things you tell them may be silly, but hey, most things are silly. It’s a silly world. When pickup gets truly
dangerous is when it
gets unfalsifiable. Because
define the term broadly—the point at which a movement becomes a
We are all
familiar with how falsifiability and
unfalsifiability work in debates between religious people and
nonbeliever can describe circumstances
under which he would change his mind—e.g., “if I said, ‘God, prove your
existence by making that tree over there burst into flames right this
and then the tree burst into flames, I would change my mind and believe
in almost all cases, the believer cannot.
For most believers, there is in
principle nothing that would make them change their minds and
believing. And this
is not simply an
outgrowth of the logical dictum that you can’t prove the absence of
because, in most religions, faith itself is tied to morality at least
as is adherence to the specific moral behaviors the religion promotes. They don’t just say that
mumbo-jumbo will cause you to
morally; they say that believing the mumbo-jumbo is
in and of itself a moral act.
And it’s not
difficult to see how things got this
succeed by making their
weaknesses look like strengths, and since having no evidence is a
weakness, religions play Opposite Day by putting that part right up
the form of a premium on faith: sure, there’s no evidence for any of
stuff, but remember, you are only a good
person insofar as you believe it anyway.
between this Standard Operating
Procedure for virtually all religions and the extreme fringes of the
movement are not terribly complex: you simply replace “good person”
“alpha,” and there you are.
sites have become just as closely
guarded about offering specifics of “alpha proof” as religions have
about offering “proof” of the existence of God.
Religions have learned from a long track
record of losing arguments that
whenever they claim something “proves” the involvement of a deity, it’s
matter of time until science proves it actually doesn’t. Much like a lazy parent’s
obedience, religious officials want you to believe there’s a God because they say so, and for no other
reason. Even asking for another reason means you’re
pickup extremists wish to hold
their judgments up as the only acceptable rulings on who is or is not
they ground those
judgments in abstractions and self-fulfilling prophecy: you are an
and only if, you behave this way and think of women that way, because
so. If they based
their alpha rulings on
external criteria, they might end up being proven wrong.
The number of
women a man has slept with, or the frequency
with which he sleeps with them, would seem to be a no-brainer as far as
criteria go, but you’ll note the conspicuous absence of hard numbers to
effect in the pickup world. If
actually came right out and said “You are an alpha if you have slept
number of women,” they would be leaving open the possibility for men to
forward who have slept with that number of women without following any
advice, acting in any of the ways they say to act, or believing any of
they say to believe.
put a number on it, and a man who wasn't in their camp came forward to
object that he'd slept with that many women without following any of
their advice, PUAs would be armed and ready with a litany of reasons
“don’t count”—the girls were all sluts, not high-value, too old, into
because of meds they’re on, probably cheating on him, etc. What kind of girls do
“count?” The kind
of girls who sleep with men who act
the way these guys say to act, of course.
(Textbook circular reasoning, right up there
with "God exists because the Bible says so, and the
Bible is right because
kernel of truth to most blather about “alpha
males,” just as there’s a kernel of truth to most religions. I’m certainly not going to
claim it’s false that women
fantasize about being
romanced by kings, cowboys, and Batman.
But human emotion is more complicated than
that, and all aggressively
reductive movements are scared of complexity.
One good reason to stay away from philosophies
like this is that most
beautiful things are complex, and so you lose the ability to perceive
Or even by
thinking about them too much,
can hardly enjoy the
scene in Empire Strikes Back where
Leia says “I love you” and Han says “I know” anymore without picturing
of baboons hooting about how “alpha” it is.
knew Han Fucking Solo was cool before you told us.
You have added little, and subtracted much.
You may think
you have helped out by delineating
exactly how to act like Han Solo, but you haven’t.
You’ve only delineated how to act like who
people think Han Solo is five
after they first meet him. But
Solo really is, is the guy who
back to help the Rebels instead of leaving with the reward, just
the right thing to do—a move that you would have characterized as
had you been there. It
did take confidence,
but the real kind, instead of the stupid kind you made up. If Han Solo had read your
blogs, he would
have left with the reward and spent it all on stupid hats.
Once again, I’m
not against the “seduction community”
as a general rule. On
the face of it, I
see nothing wrong with giving people—male or female, gay or
about how to be more attractive to whomever they’re trying to sleep
there are any number of sites that do this in a more-or-less “totally
In fact, I
think the presence or absence of actual
advice giving to be a
rule of thumb for discerning how full of crap any particular one of
or programs is. You’ll
notice that the
more extreme and psychologically questionable a site is, the less hard
there is to be found on it. If
consisting of rants about “sluts” and mockery about how stupid women
outnumber posts that specifically tell you “Do XYZ and this will
happen, do ABC
and that will happen” in a falsifiable fashion (without relying on
self-fulfilling qualifiers about how there’s something wrong with the
doesn’t work on), then the site you’re looking at is a questionable one. And the more unbalanced
that ratio becomes in
favor of the former, the closer the pickup movement gets to becoming a
Of course, even
specific advice-giving can be
bullshit too, if it’s presented with some kind of “escape clause” for
advice giver turns out to be wrong.
a lot of pickup is founded on rhetoric like this: they’ll tell you
to do, but if it doesn’t work, that just means you did it wrong. (Pray and God will heal
you, but if He
doesn’t, then it was because you didn’t truly believe He would.)
“doing it wrong” usually means doing it
without enough “confidence”—a word that used to mean believing in
now means acting however pickup gurus decree you should act. Unsurprisingly, the term
has gotten defined
within pickup a lot like how “faith” gets defined within organized
doesn’t just mean believing in God; it means believing in God our way.
As with many
religious people, there is some
considerable reason to feel sorry for these guys.
For one thing, they are in the unenviable
position of wanting women to be good at sex but simultaneously feeling
they have to disapprove of the ones who are.
To quote one prominent guru, from a post about
how to identify sluts: “Hey
man, nothing like
getting a BJ from a chick who knows how to hit the underside with her
but it does make you wonder how much dick it required for her to reach
level of professionalism.”
Now, I’m not one who likes to toss around
knee-jerk accusations of
misogyny, but honestly, if you are finding reasons to be mad at a woman
who is in the process of blowing you,
might not be in the most psychologically healthy place. (Or
the most logical place, as it’s
far more likely that the woman in the example got that skilled by
practicing on long-term boyfriends with whom she was comfortable
communicating than a series of one-night stands.)
But it’s lucky
for me, I suppose, that these guys
have this particular hangup. A
women might be inclined to lump me in with them, since I criticize many
of organized feminism, champion porn, and so forth, but the source of
the 1585 crowd and pickup extremists is a pretty obvious and major one:
I do not care how much sex a woman has had.
To the extent that I do, it’s because I think
women who haven’t had
enough of it are boring.
I have never
seen why this isn’t obvious to more
guys: if you want women to have sex, stop saying there’s something
women who have sex. The
the most good sex goes on are the ones with the least slut-shaming
also the thinnest and least-violent societies, but I’m not about to
causal relationship there in the middle of an essay extolling
But that’s the
extremists don’t just want women to
have sex—they want women to have sex with them and only them. This is, I suppose,
excusable if the woman
you’re talking about is your wife, but it seems presumptuous when
regard to half the planet in general.
response to this—as I’ve heard many times—is
that I don’t care whether women have a lot of sex because I’m a “beta,”
betas know the only way they can get laid is for women to have sex with
everybody, whereas alphas know that even if women hardly ever have sex,
will be unaffected, because all that sex will be with alphas. This is a logically
coherent argument. But
then, so is the argument that the world
will end when the seventh seal is broken and trade is restricted to
bearing the mark of the Beast. And
are completely unfalsifiable.
I might respond
with the argument that only deeply
sexually insecure men are threatened by women who have had a lot of sex. I can’t prove this either
of course, but it would,
at least, carry the weight of being corroborated by roughly 100% of
based on their actual experiences.
this highly persuasive anecdotal evidence would be countered by
pickup’s ex cathedra dictum that
all women are
lying about everything, all of the time.
Pickup makes assertions about women, but all
contrary evidence based on
actual women is suspect—just like religion makes assertions about the
world, but all contrary evidence based on the actual external world is
there are dinosaur bones,
but they were obviously created by the Devil.)
When a movement
gets to the point where it’s
telling you that you can’t trust anyone except the guy who’s telling
you can’t trust anyone, it’s probably time to thank them politely for
and cookies and head for the door.
is what weak movements do: they search for the quickest path to
you’re worried about, but can’t possibly ever truly know about (what
after we die; is my girlfriend really
attracted to me), and start tapping it as fast as the B button on an
game where you had to do something by tapping the B button fast (which
you can achieve that will put you
out of the range of these attacks.
if you married the planet’s top supermodel, she is probably
cheating on you with guys who act like PUAs say to act, or at the very
she really really wants to and thinks about it all the time. The only way to prevent
this is to act the
way PUAs say to act. Hey,
you can’t ever
know, so what do you have to lose?
wager,” if you will.)
In this wise,
pickup seeks to instill paranoia
even as it claims to teach confidence—much like how a religion purports
teach you to be uplifted by God’s love, when it is actually teaching
fear God’s punishment.
most troubling similarity between “faith”
as promoted in religion and “confidence” as promoted in pickup is that,
logically and grammatically speaking, neither term should even make
sense as an
absolute. You don’t
have “faith,” period—you have faith
in some specific
thing, and are skeptical about others.
Having faith period
mean that you believe everything, which isn’t even cognitively possible. Similarly, having
“confidence” period doesn’t make
any sense, because
(in a sane person) confidence is situation-specific.
If I were about to give a lecture on Hamlet, I would be supremely confident;
if I were getting up to bat in softball, I would be somewhat confident;
I were compelled to perform open-heart surgery with my zero years of
I would be pants-shittingly unconfident.
to understand that you are good at
things you’re good at and bad at things you’re bad at.
If you doubt yourself about things you’re
good at, you should probably have more confidence—but if you simply
the things you’re bad at, that’s just being rational.
A common-sense pickup application of this
might be something like “try to do things you’re good at when women are
watching.” But once
that devolves into “believe
that you’re good at everything all the time, in
case a woman is watching,” that way madness lies. (Belief that God is
watching you every minute
to judge you for any trace of sin = belief that women are watching you
minute to judge you for any sign of insecurity; simultaneously a form
paranoia and delusional self-importance.)
PUAs claim to dominate women, emotionally speaking they put women in
the place of God. “Faith” is the magical emotional quality
need to possess in order for God to reward you,
is the magical emotional quality you need to possess in order for women
to sleep with you. But absent a specific context or
object, “faith” and “confidence” are both emotional
Nobody believes in anything all the time, including himself.
religion, extremist pickup claims
that empirical reality as we rationally observe it is an illusion. Their revealed “truths”
illusion, of course, but those truths have been corrupted by those who
believe them. And
when the guy at the
front of the room starts blurring the lines between what is
true and what should be
true, it’s time to leave without even bothering with the punch
The worst sites
are the ones that have
more-or-less abandoned sleeping with women as a primary goal, and have
into promoting traditional masculinity for the sake of traditional
note that most of
these sites don’t say that women are
more attracted to men who behave this way—they say that they should be.
(It’s right because it’s “natural,” and it’s
natural because it’s right—the same circular argument as in religion.)
These are the
pickup guys who are really into the
whole idea of a “natural order” with men at the top.
If you’ve ever wondered what would become of
Ayn Rand People if they were still dumb enough to like Ayn Rand but not
enough to read her books, look no further.
It’s true that a lot of these guys talk
about Ayn Rand’s books—but whatever else they may be, those
books are long, and I have a hard
time picturing a
guy who calls someone a faggot every ten seconds and spells it a
each time making it through a thousand-page book.
You may have
started out with an understandable
goal—getting better at talking to women—but if you’ve ended up there,
ended up crazy. If
all you’re doing is
testing out whether it’s true that women like talking about astrology,
probably fine, but if you’ve ever caught yourself using the
phrase “kung-fu penis,” you are
either way too into pickup or you have Tourette’s.
clarify, my argument against the angry
pickup sites isn’t that I want to protect women from them because
misogynist. On the
contrary, I don’t
really believe that women need protecting from them at all. Because the most damning
blow against the angry
pickup sites is, quite simply, that the advice on those sites can’t
work. I know they’re not getting laid as much as
they claim to be, because
no-one who gets laid that much is as pissed off as they are. In order to want to “save”
women from them, I
would need to believe that the guys who hang out in those forums ever
left the house and did any of the things they claim to do. But they don’t. So I think women need to
be protected from
them about as much as I think George Clooney needs to be protected from
commenters on Perez Hilton.
Just like I
have a hard time believing a man who
preaches charity and humility but lives in a giant jewel-encrusted
don’t buy the stories of a bunch of guys who claim to be great with
spend all their time talking to other dudes on the internet. I don’t care what you’re
talking about—if you are spending
all your time
talking to other dudes on the internet, you’re a nerd.
Mick Jagger and Lord Byron didn’t fuck all
those chicks so they could run off and brag to strangers about it on
(the least “confident” thing imaginable).
They fucked all those chicks because they
just liked to fuck chicks.
spent a lot of time actually caring about other things too, which is
know who they are. You
don’t get a
plaque in Westminster Abbey because you spent your life cruising sports
a stupid hat.
So if I’m not
writing this to “protect” or get
applause from women, who am I writing it for?
Well, me, for a start, because I like writing
and I like being
right. But also for
guys who—like me—have
read up on pickup out of curiosity and come out if it feeling worse
did before. Although
it’s not the case
that learning will always make you feel better, it’s also true that if
deeper you go into a field of supposed knowledge, the worse you feel,
there’s probably something else going on besides learning. Those extra nagging
feelings are the weight
of unfalsifiable assertions you’ve been ordered to carry around. Just like a religion that
makes you feel hateful
and suspicious of the world that is supposedly God’s creation instead
finding beauty in it is probably the wrong religion, a philosophy on
reduces it to a series of commandments about how to prove yourself to
is probably the wrong philosophy on sex.
women demonstrably like you
better and you feel fine, then everything’s probably fine. But if you walk away from
with a woman feeling like crap regardless of how it went, and then
running to your computer to ask strangers
why, then you should probably work up the confidence to walk outside
asking some questions of real life.
what scientists do.
And Batman is a